What a fuss over a coupla dicks.
Yesterday Brian K. Vaughan posted an ‘annoying press release thing’ regarding Apple supposedly banning issue #12 of Saga (Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ creation from Image Comics) from their iOS App Store for having offensive content. Specifically, two postage-stamp sized images of gay sex. Predictably, the internet went crazy over it, and amidst the fervour were some strong arguments from all sides. Apple has long been known for refusing to carry offensive or pornographic apps/content in the App Store, so the move wasn’t a complete shock. As much as consumers may disagree with that approach, most understand that as a business, they can censor content by what they decide to carry. People still buy iPhones and iPads en masse, just like people still shop at Wal-Mart even though they also censor some products.
That being said, Apple is inconsistent with what they allow and what gets banned, which seemed to be the case with issue #12 of Saga. It’s recently come to light that it was in fact digital comics purveyor Comixology that banned the issue in question, believing it would not meet Apple’s policies on offensive content. But the question still stands: what exactly made these panels more offensive than the already sexually explicit scenes that came before in the series?
Saga has always been advertised and labeled as a mature comic, intended for adults and as such, may include some shocking elements like adults engaged in sexual activity. Heck, they may even look like they’re enjoying such scandalous things too! Past issues included orgy scenes that depicted penetration, humanoid beings with TV heads copulating doggy style, lots of hetero-normative sex and lots of nudity too, including one giant monster’s drooping testicles and penis that can never be unseen. As a reader who bought the comic, I can’t complain about the droopy ball monster. He was part of a spectacular story that I thoroughly enjoy, and I knew that it was a mature book going into every issue. Staples’ art and Vaughan’s writing have been top notch in this series, where sexuality is not ignored but isn’t the focus of the tale either.
The offensive art in issue #12 is a minute portion of the page that I may not have even noticed if I wasn’t specifically looking for it. The first panel includes a small close up of a man performing oral sex on another man, and in the second panel, the same man surrounded by three penii (penises?), awaiting what’s commonly referred to as “The Money Shot” in pornography (so I’ve heard). The second panel appears to be the more outwardly offensive of the two images, though is the “offence” in the act or in the participants? Would the same panel receive as much scrutiny by Comixology’s reviewers if it was a woman on the receiving end, like in the majority of the other sex scenes in Saga that didn’t raise any flags?
Although I disagree with Apple’s stance towards censoring sexual content in apps or games, I could at least understand if they consistently ban all sexual content equally. As much as sex sells, it also scares a large portion of the population, so a corporation that plays it safe by not associating themselves with such scandal unfortunately makes sense, profit wise. It’s imperfect and somewhat craven, but that’s business. However, if they or their distribution partners like Comixology have moved to censoring specific types of sexuality they consider immoral… that’s a line not so easily uncrossed.
Comixology has stepped forward to explain the situation, but the statement they released brushes aside allegations that orientation affected their decision and does not explain what was a factor. What made those pages so much more offensive than any others? With such a significant amount of news coverage and fan discussion, Comixology’s statement is underwhelming and lacks clarity on that issue.
Readers are now able to purchase the issue directly from the App Store again, although there are still other options to pick up Saga #12. If anything, this ban has brought more attention to what is easily the best new comic series in years. That’s the bright side of this scandal, hopefully ensuring more sales of the issue, and ideally, getting more people into their local comic book retailer. I know my usual shop doesn’t decide what’s too offensive for me, and yours shouldn’t either.
If you aren’t already reading Saga, go to your local comic book shop and pick it up because it’s great, giant monster balls and all.